Thursday, July 21, 2011

Work days, World Cup, and Women!

Hi everyone! I hope you are enjoying the summer months back home! Since my last update, not a whole lot has changed in terms of my activities. By the time I get this post up, the second trimester will have come to an end! It’s hard to believe how fast this trimester flew by… and I’m thinking the last trimester will feel even faster!

Since you all pretty much know what I’m up to by now, I decided it’s time to give you a little more detail about what “a day in the life” really looks like. So, here we go!

5:30 am- Wake up to the usual morning noises of Kaunda: dogs barking, roosters crowing, goats screaming, and a few bancas playing bad music.
6:00 am- Actually get up. If I haven’t taken one the night before, warm up some water to take a bath. This has become much less frequent in the winter months. I can’t figure out why, but for some reason standing outside naked at 6 in the morning splashing luke warm water on my body doesn’t appeal to me that much. If it’s really cold, I just stand in a bucket inside my house to “take a bath.” After, I eat some breakfast (which the people in my community are so surprised at- “You ALREADY ate breakfast?! Before your classes???”) and drink some instant coffee.
6:45 am- Head over to the school, or, in other words, walk out my front door. I am generally the first teacher to show up. The other teachers start rolling in around 7, which is what time we are supposed to be done with morning announcements and in the classroom starting first period. The teacher generally walks up, shaking his head about “these students” and how late they all are. If I’m feeling sassy, I point out to said teacher that there are, in fact, many more students who have shown up than teachers, at which he usually laughs and agrees. We finally enter into the classroom at about 7:20, leaving a full 25 minutes to give first period.
7:20-12- Give whatever classes my schedule has for the day. I am not sure if I have mentioned this, but in Mozambique every homeroom class has a classroom that they stay in all day, and the teachers enter the different classrooms. I do not have my own classroom that I could hang any posters in or anything like that. So, I walk into whatever classroom I am teaching, one student yells out “SCHOOL DISCIPLINE” in Portuguese, and all students stand up and say “BOM DIA, SENHORA PROFESSORA.” Good morning, teacher! “Bom dia, como estao?” Good morning, how are you? “Estamos bem, MUITO obrigada!” We are fine, thank you so much! Then, they all stand waiting for me to give them the okay to sit down. Sometimes I forget and start doing something at the teacher’s desk. When I finally look up, they are all standing there staring at me. My class period usually starts with checking of homework, where I walk around and give them a little check in their notebooks if they have done it. After, I write all the notes for the period on the board and wait for them to copy it down. Other teachers often just dictate to the students, but given my imperfect Portuguese mixed in with a Michigan accent, this would take hours to do. When they have finally copied it down, I usually explain the notes and hopefully have an activity if there is time. Between classes, I either go back into my house, chat with other teachers at the school, or work on grading in the “teachers lounge.” Because of the fact that the students stay in the same classroom all day, it is also possible to “occupy” some other teacher’s class time if they are absent that day, which is unfortunately very often. It is a rare day that the students actually have a teacher 1st through 6th period. It is also very rare that the students will have to stay at school until 6th period, since the teachers that are there will just give their classes whenever the turma is free, often times combining classes. Regardless, by noon all the classes are done.
12-2 pm- Eat leftovers from dinner, read, take a nap, do grading, or really whatever needs to be done for the day. This is the general “rest time” for everyone in town. No one is really out.
2-6 pm- Depending on the day, go for a jog, play soccer, meet with clubs, or passear around Kaunda.
6 pm- Go home, cook dinner (and enough for lunch the next day), read, do crosswords, drink tea, and try to keep myself awake and out of bed until 8.
8 pm- Lock up, tuck in my mosquito net, and read for a while before falling asleep.

Pretty exciting, huh?

The past few weeks, though, I have had some different things to do to spice up the day. I think I am entering a new “phase” in my integration. Now that I pretty much know most people in my community, and they know me, I am now getting to the point where I feel like I am starting to build real, meaningful friendships. The other day, for example, none of my girls showed up for soccer so I decided to walk around for a while. No one was really out, and I started to feel really sad that I just didn’t have that many real friends that I could hang out with in Kaunda. Well, Kaunda must have read my mind, because since that day I have been pretty socially busy! As I was on my way back home that day, looking sad, I ran into the frequently mentioned big-nosed-condescending counterpart figure, and he told me his wife, my REDES counterpart, was in their house and I should go visit her. I headed over to her house, and ended up sitting and chatting for over an hour, and it was just what I needed. Got some good gossip about other teachers, and just really felt like she considered me more than just some weird foreigner. Last weekend, I also was invited over to watch a movie at a teacher couple’s house on a rainy Sunday afternoon. The wife, Veronica, made us popcorn and I got to play with their adorable twin babies. Later that night, I was invited over to another teacher couple’s house to eat dinner and watch the US Women’s World Cup game. They invited me back for the next game, which I definitely took them up on, and it just felt so nice to be sitting in a full living room with a full family watching TV and chatting! I had forgotten how nice that feeling was after nearly 7 months of living alone.  Later in the week, Veronica, the popcorn teacher, came up to me and told me she heard I played guitar. She has a guitar but doesn’t know how to play that well, so she asked if we could start playing together. So, we set a “jam session” time for Friday morning and she showed up, baby on back and guitar in hand, and we played together for an hour or so! It was so much fun and I hope something that will keep happening! Just feeling like there are a few women I can actually be myself around and that genuinely want to hang out with me has made a world of difference in how I feel about Kaunda. I had always felt accepted and welcome, but now I feel like I am more than just a visitor. It’s these relationships that I am building that make me excited I still have a year and half to get to know these friends even better!
So, things are going well! I am ready for a little break, and will hopefully have some good pictures to share after some traveling and the week-long REDES conference that is coming up. I hope you are all doing well, too!
The song for this post is Rusted Root "Send Me on My Way." No particular reason, it's just a happy song that has many happy memories of dancing with friends and sisters!
Hope to hear from you soon!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Exchanges, Exorcisms, and English-speaking-fun!

Hello everyone! I apologize for the long delay in updates, but I’m happy to say it is because the past month has been pretty busy at site! Compared to the early months where I was in a constant count-down mindset for the next time I would leave site, this past trimester I have been struggling to fit everything in that I want to do! So, I guess I will just dive right in with some highlights.

When I last updated, I was down in Chimoio for a REDES planning meeting. I’ve talked about this before, but REDES is a young girls’ empowerment group that has groups at several schools in Mozambique, both with and without Peace Corps Volunteers. I’d been pretty happy with the interest in REDES at my school. To get the girls even more excited, I’d been telling them that at some point I would be taking a group to another school to do an exchange with another group. Since there are only 3 volunteers in Tete province, we ended up just having a 3-way exchange the first weekend in June. We each could bring ten girls, so I chose my 10 most involved and excited girls to go with me down to Audrey and Helen’s school close to Tete City for a weekend of seminars about planning their “healthy future” (wonderfully presented by Janet, a volunteer from the previous year who has the third group in Tete), crafts (capulana bags- super cute), sports (organized by yours truly), and of course some dancing. Besides some drama with the water- as in the school had absolutely no water, which created quite a bit of extra stress for the Moatize girls- the weekend went really well. Although my girls were super shy for the whole weekend (you could definitely tell they were from a more rural school), once we were back on our own turf, they were so excited about everything they learned. Unfortunately, my overall attendance has decreased since I had to pick only ten to take, but the girls who do participate are fully invested and the functionality of the group has really gotten better. Yesterday, in fact, we presented for June 25th, Mozambican’s Independence Day. We only had ten or so girls, but we were actually able to prepare a very organized dance presentation and it just felt more like we really knew what we represented by being in REDES. The weekend was also especially great for my counterpart, Celsa. I had explained what REDES was, but I think this weekend really helped her grasp the overall goals and purpose of the organization. I had already felt like I lucked out in finding an awesome counterpart, and since the weekend she has only become better! We will go together to Chimoio at the beginning of August for a week with our two most involved girls, and I absolutely cannot wait to see what she and the girls get out of a whole week of REDES!

I believe I had just started my English group when I last updated. Since then, it has become one of my favorite projects at site! It is mostly made up of 9th and 10th grade boys, and they just crack me up. They show up every Monday without a reminder (which is so impressive for my community, believe me) and are so eager to learn. Generally, we start each meeting with listening to some American music as they copy down a short dialogue that I write ahead of time. We go through the meaning and pronunciation of all the words, then they each present it in little groups. They love it because they get to speak English, and I love it because I get to write silly little skits that are absolutely hilarious to watch. Plus, spending time with just the students that actually want to learn and are excited about the subject matter is such a breath of fresh air after struggling to get the students interested in biology all day. We also presented yesterday at the Independence Day festivities, and it was a huge success. Although it was just a short little skit about June 25th, they were so proud of themselves for memorizing their English lines, and I’m really excited to continue working with them!

Another one of my big successes the past month is that I actually feel like I have created some sort of schedule for my students! If you could see my school in action, you would understand that this is no easy task. While my school is full of extracurricular activities, there is absolutely no rhyme or reason to when each group meets. Most teachers just decide “Hm, today I will have a meeting for my group” and then hope that word gets around. Or for sports, they usually just show up with the ball and know that the students will eventually show up, too. My students, on the other hand, have finally gotten the hang of the fact that English Club will always meet on Mondays, REDES will always meet on Wednesdays, and then Tuesday and Thursday we will have soccer practice for the girls. After trying to drill this in their head for the entire school year, they have finally got it! Just having soccer practice twice a week means that more show up on those days, and I don’t have to be constantly fending of questions about when we are going to play next. I rarely have to give any reminder announcements, and for my slightly OCD personality when it comes to planning, this has really done wonders for my sanity. Plus, I now have something guaranteed to do every evening, which I love. I’m really starting to be able to be myself around my students, too, and am forming some great relationships with them. I have one girl that participates in every one of my activities, and she is just awesome. She’s 17, and although this sounds weird, I think she and I are at similar maturity levels. Here, you just have to grow up a little faster in some aspects. She’s just got it all figured out and I know she is going to do great things, which is so great to see and so encouraging. She’s a tenth grader, so hopefully in a few months she’ll be passing out of our little school and moving on to bigger things. More to come on that at the end of the year!

Inside of the classroom, things are also going well, although the rest of the trimester looks fairly bleak. Since the beginning of June, the other teachers have been saying to the students that the trimester is almost over, and their behavior reflects that. Just the other day, one of the teachers was talking to me about how we had basically reached the holidays. I pointed out that there are still 4 weeks of school left, at which he simply shook his head as if I was crazy. It’s such a self-perpetuating problem. The teachers know that traditionally, there are not many students at school the last few weeks, so they end up not really planning to teach. Since the students know the classes aren’t taken seriously by the teachers, they don’t come to school. And so it goes in Kaunda. On Thursday, I got to school with all my lesson plans and my little teaching jacket on just to find out that there weren’t going to be any more classes that day since it was some random holiday (not one at which school was supposed to be taken off). Instead, we had to supervise the students as they planted “trees,” which was just breaking of branches and replanting them in the ground. Since this happened on Thursday, and Independence Day was Saturday, this effectively meant that Friday classes were going to be a joke as well. Sure enough, not a single student or teacher showed up until 7:15 (we are supposed to be there at 6:30), and maybe 30 students in total showed up for school in the end. So, we couldn’t have classes of course… what a perfect opportunity to plant more sticks! Although I may be dangerously behind in the curriculum for 8th grade biology, my supervision skills for activities such as this have greatly improved in my 6 months in Kaunda. At least I have that.

Don’t get me wrong, though, I am still feeling like a very lucky volunteer to have been placed here in Kaunda. I can finally express my personality to both the students and other teachers, and I think I fit in pretty well. I’ve been spending more weekends at site, and have really gotten a lot out of them. I attended church for the first time in Kaunda, and am really glad I went. The church was founded in Zimbabwe by Americans (Celebration Church) and is all in the local dialect. Luckily, there is a man from Zimbabwe that works at the church, and so he translated the whole service into English for me. The joy in the congregation was extremely captivating, everyone was very welcoming, and I even got to witness a few exorcisms to end the service. Ha! After, the pastor’s wife invited me over to eat lunch with them, and I am really happy to have found my way into another different social group in Kaunda. I don’t think I’ll be going to church every weekend, but I’ll definitely go every once in a while.

Well, although I could probably go on for pages, I think I’ll stop there for today. I hope that you are all enjoying the summer months back home. I think we sent some of our heat over there for the time being, and that’s okay with me. I always appreciate e-mails, so let me know what you are up to! Unfortunately, my computer has joined the electronic graveyard in Mozambique, so blog posts will probably be a little less frequent, but I can get e-mail on my phone when I am in cell phone range, and I’d love to hear from you!

Oh, and the song for today is “Turning Tables” by Adele. You’ve probably heard it, but I really like it. You can picture me cooking dinner to it most nights. So that’s it! Happy 4th of July!!